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Online Master’s Degree in Geography

Geography is the scientific study of the earth’s land, geographic features, people, environment, and natural phenomena. This science is often broken down into four different areas, including spacial analysis, area studies, human geography, and earth sciences. Because of the human element associated with geography, it has a unique connection with both the social sciences and the natural sciences, according to the Royal Geographical Society. As a result, students seeking a master’s degree in geography generally have a keen interest in the relationships between people and the natural resources around them.

Students seeking a master degree in geography often do so in pursuit of a Ph.D., which can qualify them for top-level positions in research and academia. Others earn a master’s degree to sharpen their skills in geographic information systems (GIS) technology, which is one of the most desirable skillsets for geographers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As distance education has become more common at universities, more graduate schools now offer an online master’s degree in geography. An online master’s degree program in geography can often be completed in one and half to three years, with program length varying depending on factors like how many credit hours are required, whether the student attends the program full-time or part-time, and whether any prerequisites are necessary before a student can begin the program.

Classes for an Online Master’s Degree in Geography

The courses a student takes in an online master’s degree in geography will depend on the student’s geography specialization, which might be anything from human geography to physical geography to GIS. GIS, the geography specialization that is most commonly available online, is designed to give students a solid foundation in applied statistics and mathematics in geography, remote sensing, and GIS technology, all of which can be readily applied in the workplace. Students also typically take rigorous courses in research methods in preparation for a thesis or capstone project. A few courses you might encounter in an accredited online master’s degree program in geography include:

  • Advanced Geographic Statistics
  • Geographic Information Analysis
  • Spatial Analysis and Modeling
  • Research Methodology
  • GIS Database Development

Master’s-level geography programs with more of an applied focus tend to conclude with a capstone project, in which a student identifies a significant, real-world problem in the field of geography and conducts substantive research into the nature of that problem and/or how to alleviate it. However, geography programs with more of a research focus tend to conclude with a thesis. Depending on the school, students may have the option to choose either a thesis or non-thesis option.

A Career as a Graduate with an Online Master’s Degree in Geography

An online master’s geography degree can prepare students for careers in government, private businesses, and nonprofits. While a bachelor’s degree may be enough to qualify individuals for certain geographer jobs, most careers in geography outside the federal government will require a master’s degree, according to the BLS. Research positions require a minimum of a master’s degree (with relevant work experience), but may prefer a Ph.D. Geographers can expect 35% employment growth between 2010 and 2020, with the best career prospects available to those with advanced degrees, GIS experience, and business knowledge.

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